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Harold Olejarz


"It seemed natural to me to have students use video to illustrate poetry," Harold Olejarz explained. "I had heard and seen projects in which students did music videos for pop songs. Having the students use poetry was a way to get them to connect to literature and realize just how visual poems can be."

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Poetry also appealed to Olejarz because it provided a script and challenged his middle schoolers to find visual interpretations of text. So the art/technology teacher set out to create Poetry in Motion, a digital video project in which his sixth grade students at Eisenhower Middle School in Wyckoff, New Jersey, made "movies" based on their favorite works by authors like Shel Silverstein.

"I was most surprised by how involved students became once they got started," observed Olejarz. "One group of students used lots of still imagery, and other groups dramatized scenes. When the videos were completed, I was impressed with the inventiveness of the projects and how students managed to bring their personalities into the project."

Working in groups of three, students selected appropriate poems. They treated each line of the poem as a "scene" in a movie and illustrated it or acted it out. Then the groups edited their work and added voiceovers by a "narrator" who read the poem, if desired. Subtitles for all of the lines of the poem also were included.

Olejarz suggests that digital video is an excellent means to engage students, and is easy to work with. He recommends Apple's iMovie software or MovieMaker, which is designed for Windows. But projects like Poetry in Motion also are highly adaptable according to the available technology. Digital cameras can be used to take still photographs of scenes when digital video cameras aren't on hand.

"The most memorable part of this project is when the students get the project," Olejarz stated. "All of a sudden, students understand what to do, the light bulb goes on and ideas begin to flow, and they get very excited about the possibilities."

Article by Cara Bafile
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